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Review from Laird Hunt in the Review of Contemporary Fiction for Sarajevo Marlboro

Sarajevo Marlboro, a collection of twenty-nine stories set in and around the besieged Bosnian capital during the 1991-95 Yugoslav war, marks the American debut of a writer who deserves as enthusiastic an audience in the United States as he enjoys in Europe. A Croat by birth who grew up in Sarajevo and spent much of the war there, Jergovic builds his stories around the daily itineraries of the Muslims, Croats, and Serbs whose coexistence was so tragically problematized by the conflict. In a vibrant, understated prose that has been handsomely rendered into English by Stela Tomasevic, Jergovic brings a powerful cocktail of irony, humour, and detachment to the daunting task of crafting stories asserting the potency of lives that continue to improbably unfurl against a backdrop of bullets and explosions or resonate after they are cut brutally short. Along the way, a wide range of experience is probed. In “Mr. Ivo” a gentleman from Dubrovnik , who has a well on his property, fastidiously, charmingly, indefatigably ensures that all of his neighbors have access to it during water shortages. In “A Diagnosis” a man who sees his family killed with an electric saw by Serb forces becomes the subject of maddeningly disconnected “therapeutic” experiments. In “The Photograph” a woman looping inexorably into insanity tries desperately to conjure up a sense-making narrative to cling to in the wake of her husband’s death. All of the stories are short; all of them move quickly toward the ever-shifting heart of the matter: the modalities of living in the middle of so much death. Jergovic’s great gift is in illuminating the harrowing simplicity and complexity of doing so. As Ammiel Alcalay writes in his eloquent introduction, “Jergovic has molded a writing of the quotidian, a writing of everyday history whose details interrogate myths and lacerate the heart.”

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